Brain injury sufferers come in all shapes and sizes
The link between head trauma, brain injury, and vision loss is well documented. Unfortunately, recent research shows that "visual loss associated with brain damage is now the single greatest cause of visual impairment in children in developed countries".
As adults, we typically have strong reference points for what is and what isn't working in our bodies. Part of the trouble with diagnosing and treating children is that often times, symptoms that are present are not identified by children as a problem. In other words, a child may not realize that eye strain, not being unable to read a book unless it's right up to their face, or other small indicators may be precursors to eye conditions.
Facts about vision loss and visual impairment in children
Every year in Ontario, approximately 795 children out of 100,000 will sustain a brain injury
There has been research out of the National Institute of Health showing 78% of children in a study diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss also experienced motor, sensory, or cognitive disorders as well
o These disorders can have adverse effects on development and education
6 out of 10 children experiencing reading difficulties have uncorrected or undetected vision problems
Almost 25% of school-age children have vision problems
What programs are in place?
Earlier this year we did a podcast episode with leadership from the Canadian Council of the Blind. They have a program called the Mobile Eye Clinic which assists children in the community by driving to schools and administering eye exams. Efforts like this work to catch the early onset of eye conditions in children which can significantly improve patient outcomes when suffering vision loss.
The Ontario Government also has a plan in place called the "Ontario's Blind - Low Vision Early Intervention Program". The program supports children from birth to Grade 1 and funds provincial intervention services and family-centred services.
Consultation services for children living with visual impairment
Daily living skills education
Intentional movement support
Emotional and social development
Making the most of residual vision
Learn more at their program site here.
Symptoms and what to look for One of the key things you can do is speak to your children and regularly ask them about the status of their visual experience.
You should also look for the following symptoms that may indicate eye irritation and vision impairment:
Eye rubbing, excessive blinking, complaints about eye irritation or fatigue
Headaches or migraines
Aversion to reading or bringing a book very close to the face to read
Seeing double, blurred vision, or an inability to concentrate on words
What you can do
Educate your children about some of the symptoms above and maintain regular communication with them to check-in on the status of their vision experience
Complete yearly examinations
Ask your doctor if your child may be at higher risk of developing a vision condition
Prevent head trauma as much as possible by having your child wear a helmet when riding their bike or doing other higher risk activities
Take any fall they may have seriously - check with your doctor after an accident happens